For supporters of Bert Blyleven being voted into the Hall of Fame, the inevitable finally happened. The Baseball Writers Association of America caved in, as it did with semi-worthy Ralph Kiner and put Blyleven in Cooperstown. Kiner made it on his fifteenth and last year of eligibility; Blyleven, in his fourteenth try.
Blyleven is a middle level pitcher compared to those already inducted, meaning he’s better than some, worse than others. I wouldn’t have voted for him.
Regular readers know that I’m a restrictionist. I believe fewer inductees make for a more exclusive Hall and contend that it should be reserved for only the best and exclude the very good. I’ve said it here before that voting in Blyleven is like allowing $500,000 net worth individuals into the Millionaire’s Club.
Understanding now that my proposal will never be implemented, I’ve gravitated to a more reasonable approach. Let’s limit the number of years a candidate can appear on the ballot. I’m greatly impressed by the idea introduced on this site by Matthew Warburg who proposes that players not appear on the ballot every year but rather over a series of alternate years with higher vote totals required for every stage.
I prefer a somewhat cleaner cut approach: one year, either in or forever out. Consider the marginal Kiner’s curious case.
In 1960, Kiner’s first year on the ballot, he got three votes and finished eighty-eighth on a ballot of 134. By his fifteenth and final try in 1975, Kiner got 75.4 percent of the vote, one more than the total necessary to qualify.
By that time, however, Kiner was a popular New York Mets’ broadcaster, a peer of the group that voted him in, the BBWAA. Television may have helped Kiner get into Cooperstown, just as numerous articles on the Internet were instrumental in getting Blyleven enshrined.
Another idea worthy of consideration is former New York Times baseball writer and BBWA member Murray Chass’ suggestion that certain strict minimum statistical standards be identified. If a player meets them, he’s in. If not, he’s out. As Chass wrote, “everyone can’t make it.” Under Chass’ system, the writers wouldn’t be burdened by the annual drag of evaluating the statistics of dozens of players of different skill levels.
I’m not in a big lather over Blyleven. I recognize that there’s no right and wrong in individual voting patterns. I’m resigned to an ever-expanding Hall.
But I truly dread the years not that far ahead when Barry Bonds and Alex Rodriguez and others in the steroid gang start their move toward Cooperstown.